I have always wondered what it would mean to be a member of the African Diaspora. I have been found guilty on numerous occasions dreaming about my desires to one day leave the continent to see the world. Maybe study in a world class university in Europe or live the life of a New York sitcom star. But I’ve never really given thought to what it would really mean to be considered an African in the diaspora.
It is an open secret that the world has changed from the cold unconnected planet of the early 20th century into an economic and social netwo
rk of information shared across the globe. We live in an age in which being halfway across the world never stops you from being with those you love the most. Travelling into a new environment doesn’t stop you from practising your culture. I believe that we should embrace the movement of Africans around the world and utilise their unique opportunities to give back to the continent. This would have to be part and parcel of the first fundamental steps the continent would have to take to further develop these resources—and to connect this continent with not only itself, but the world as well. The people of the diaspora are spread across the world, with no stone seemingly left unturned. Many have historical links to the continent and many have simply moved away from the continent. Whether this shift away was done willingly, was forced upon them, whether they were coerced into it or it simply became unavoidable becomes irrelevant when their passion for the development of this continent still remains. We are entering a golden age for the continent and the people of the diaspora have a role to play.
Most members of the diaspora simply send money back to their families to help them survive with the dream of one day bringing them to the very country they are living in. It is an act that binds us to them as a continent. Many people actively practice their culture even when in a new environment in order to educate their foreign counterparts about the continent they come from. The power of globalisation is the ability for people to share knowledge, experiences and stories.
Policies that limit that transfer of funds of foreign Africans to their families, major companies holding a monopoly over such transfers, and strict immigration laws for foreign-living Africans to contribute back to the continent should allow easier access in and out the country. Africa’s pro-poor growth should take into account the effect of international African movement on the continent’s development. The continent should begin to view those who have moved away as commodities instead of merely donors, allowing them to help to stabilize their home economy.
Therefore it is vital that African policies become inclined to allowing people of the African Diaspora to actively engage in the continent’s discourse and development. To create a space for those who are hesitant to give back to the country the opportunity to see why they should do so. Their successes, whether large or small, should be considered the continent’s successes as well. The economic impact should be handled with care to show their appreciation.
If I were to become such a member of the diaspora in my lifetime, I would look back upon my continent as a place of wonder and excitement. A continent filled with an unbridled ability to dream like a five year old child demanding to touch the stars. I would look upon my continent with the hope that we will one day lift ourselves from where we are and carry ourselves to where we want to be. To be a person of the diaspora means to be the unofficial spokesperson for the continent and someone willing to defend it. For us to succeed as a continent we must make our unofficial spokespersons our official spokespersons. We should create a space for our diaspora members to want to give back to the continent in many ways, and assist in the continent’s development.
Our biggest form of foreign aid is a phone call away and we seem to be dialling the wrong number.
Rekgotsofetse Chikane is a second year student at the University of Cape Town and is currently studying towards a Bachelors of Social Science, majoring in both Economics and Public Policy and Administration. In 2011, he was elected onto his University residence committee, Kopano, to work on student development and academics within the residence. He currently sits as Chairperson on UCT’s Residence Tutors’ Council and is also Chairperson of the South African Students Congress UCT branch. He is an active advocate for socio-economic equality within South Africa. Rekgotsofetse wants to work within South Africa’s economic policy formulation and implementation institutions. He hopes to be able to influence economic policies within the country as well as within Africa.
The South Africa-Washington International Program (SAWIP) is a six-month leadership, service and professional development program that recruits 15 high-potential South African students from three top South African universities each year in pursuit of its mission to inspire, develop and support a diverse new generation of emerging South African leaders from multiple disciplines.